It is no secret that books are a big deal in my home. And since I believe that a passion for reading is caught and not taught, I jumped at the chance to review BLACKOUT by John Rocco. My intent was to read this to my younger boys (ages 4 and 2) but I hadn’t gotten through the first page when my older boys (ages 8 and 6) climbed onto the couch and read with us. It became an instant family favorite.
One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, “Mommm!” His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can’t work on her computer, and Dad can’t finish cooking dinner. What’s a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights–in stars that can be seen for a change–and so many neighbors it’s like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun–talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. They even have time to play a board game together. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. The boy switches off the lights, and out comes the board game again.Using a combination of panels and full bleed illustrations that move from color to black-and-white and back to color, John Rocco shows that if we are willing to put our cares aside for a while, there is party potential in a summer blackout.
John Rocco is the creator of numerous books for children. Wolf! Wolf! garnered several awards including Borders Original Voices Award for best picture book. His second book, Moonpowder, was part of the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators, and artwork from the book was selected for a special nationwide traveling exhibition. Fu Finds the Way, his third book, is about a boy who finds courage in a pot of tea. He also illustrates all the covers for Rick Riordan’s bestselling YA series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Blackout is his latest release.
This book is wise and charming and full of wonder. And, in all honesty, the timing could not have been better for us to read it since we’ve instituted a mini “blackout” of our own this summer – our boys are saying goodbye to electronic entertainment for the next two months. Instead of movies and endless rounds of Wii, their days will be filled with books and sprinklers and watermelon seed spitting contents. As a wise friend once told me, we only get eighteen summers with our kids. How better to fill than with stories and memories?